Even though Individual Education Plans (IEP) are not legally required in Ireland, it is good practice for schools to prepare them for children with special needs. This written document outlines specific goals for children, along with the measures planned to meet those goals. These measures include modifications and accommodations tailored to your children’s needs. IEPs should include strategies to help children in the classroom, with their homework and with testing.
1. Classroom
Finding the best place for your child with special needs to sit is a key accommodation for many children. If your child is easily distracted, seating her closer to the teacher and away from windows and doors helps. Let children with slow handwriting sit next to another student who is good at note-taking or copying from the board. Sit children with behavioural issues at the front of the class or next to another student, to act as a role model.
Problems with organisation are common among children with special needs. In the classroom, teachers can help by:
  • Providing visual schedules of the school day.
  • Prompting students to get ready for the next class or subject.
  • Allowing time toward the end of the day for students to pack what they need for homework.
  • Assigning homework buddies so students can call each other if they have questions about assignments.
  • Emailing assignments to parents.
Sitting still and maintaining concentration are also problems for some children with special needs. Parents can ask for one or more of these accommodations to help their children:
  • Allowing children to have extra breaks throughout the school day.
  • Providing a quiet corner or room for children to go to, if overstimulated.
  • Letting children use toys and other items for sensory feedback, such as wiggle cushions, chew toys, and weighted blankets.
2. Homework
No child should be in tears over homework. Homework is particularly burdensome for children with special needs for several reasons, including:
  • Poor motor skills that make writing arduous.
  • Fatigue from trying to concentrate during the school day.
  • Problems with time management and organisation.
  • Lack of attention.
If your children have difficulty doing all their homework, speak with their teachers about modifying their assignments. Teachers can modify homework by:
  • Assigning fewer questions.
  • Decreasing the amount of writing required for answers.
  • Adapting homework so a child fills in the blank word or phrase, instead of writing several sentences.
  • Shortening reading assignments.
They can also make accommodations including:
  • Limiting the time a child spends on homework.
  • Allowing students to complete assignments using a computer.
  • Letting students record their answers.
  • Setting aside time during the school day for the child to do homework.
3. Testing
Schools should take reasonable measures to make sure students with special needs perform to the best of their ability on tests. To help these students, schools may let students:
  • Take tests in separate rooms.
  • Have extra time to complete their tests.
  • Type or dictate their answers.
  • Answer fewer questions.
  • Outline their answers instead of writing essays.
  • Take rest breaks.
  • Be prompted on the time remaining at different points in the test.
Testing accommodations are more important as children get older. When children are in secondary school, they must learn which accommodations work best. If students are unsure, they should experiment with different test-taking accommodations. In addition, secondary school students must investigate what accommodations are available during the State Examinations. Information on exam accommodations and the application process is available from the State Examinations Commission.
Special Education Advocate



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